Confession: I’ve never been accused of being particularly soft-spoken. I speak my mind, always attempting to provide a factual and respectful perspective when I point out leadership, political, or social hypocrisy and injustice. And I can be quite pointed, even harsh, in my insistence on leadership transparency.
My philosophy’s always been this:
If you disagree with my perspective, be that political, religious, or with regard to leadership styles, principles, etc., I can respect that difference. For example, I have some very good friends who hold vastly divergent political beliefs to mine. As long as their beliefs are founded in a firm understanding of the issues, I will intellectually challenge them, but not disparage their stances. If, however, their perspectives are based on ignorance and un-vetted media soundbites, my gloves come off.
Similarly, I am a firm believer in servant leadership, transformational leadership, and emotionally intelligent leadership. I do understand there are many examples of appropriate and effective transactional, authoritative, and autocratic leadership. I’d simply not work well under such leaders and would not choose to employ such methods in my own leadership roles.
Where my criticisms ring strongest, however, are toward those leaders who claim one style, yet employ another, where unethical and injust leadership trumps the social contract that should exist in organizations, and where greed and leadership insecurity undermine organizational effectiveness and actually create hostile workplaces. In short, where humanity and humility in leadership fail…..the pit bull in me is released. I go for the jugular, and I’ll hold on until the last gasp of unjust leadership ceases.
So, why am I devoting a blog article to this “confession?”
It’s all about authenticity. And, yes, branding.
I learned the hard way that I am an ineffective worker when forced to conform to rules, processes, and leadership styles that I believe to be flawed or ill-conceived. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll work diligently to improve all organizations (public, private, non-profit, volunteer, community….) with which I interact. But if what an organization is seeking is a mindless automaton, look elsewhere. I can’t thrive in such an environment, and I’m hardly alone in that sentiment. Unfortunately, not as many have had the opportunities I have to self-determine my own career. Too many workers feel stuck in organizations that stifle and suffocate their passion and engagement to truly provide value.
So, I’m a bit outspoken at times about leadership actions that are pulling organizations downward and taking their skilled, talented, and unbelievably bright employees with them. I don’t apologize for being that way. In fact, I embrace it. Whether an internal employee, a soldier, a sailor, or an external consultant, I’ve never been a “Yes Man.” I push back. I challenge. I praise the good, and I chastise the errant (respectfully, and, when directed at a single individual, privately).
It’s who I am. It’s who I’ll be. And those leaders who understand that they are not perfect, they are not the “smartest in the room,” they are not more entitled than the line workers, but rather just a specialized cog in a team wheel…those leaders appreciate the honest feedback and perspectives I bring.
So, when I hear consternation about my outspoken nature, I instinctively begin to ponder what kind of leader would object to what I have to say. And typically, my conclusion….they aren’t leaders at all, regardless of title. Good leaders want constructive criticism, expect pushback, and seek out alternative perspectives. And those are the leaders with which I align myself. And I do so without reservation and without apology. It’s who I am. It’s my authenticity.